WASHINGTON – The Obama administration today will announce plans to tighten scrutiny of “mountaintop” coal mining, trying to reduce environmental damage from operations that shear off peaks and fill Appalachian valleys, federal officials said.
The policy changes will not end the practice of mountaintop mining, also called “mountaintop removal.”
But administration officials said their aim was to curtail its worst impacts: wooded peaks reduced to barren stumps and healthy streams buried under tons of rock.
To do that, their agreement would propose to end a “fast-track” approval process for new mining permits in Appalachia, requiring that they undergo a more detailed environmental review. It would also re-assert federal oversight of state-level regulators, checking their work for evidence of lax scrutiny, and try to close loopholes that allowed waste rock to be dumped near streams.
The new policies are the result of months of discussions among federal agencies, environmentalists and coal-industry leaders.